By Cheryl Shuman | June 28, 2011
Last summer I received a call from my friend David Zuckerman asking me if he could “borrow” several large live cannabis plants from my personal garden for a new television pilot he was filming call “Wilfred”. He went on to explain.
Wilfred is a half-hour, live-action comedy about “Ryan,” a young man struggling unsuccessfully to make his way in the world until he forms a unique friendship with “Wilfred,” his neighbor’s canine pet.
Everyone else sees Wilfred as just a dog, but Ryan sees a crude and somewhat surly, yet irrepressibly brave and honest Australian bloke in a cheap dog suit.
While leading him through a series of comedic and existential adventures, Wilfred the dog shows Ryan the man how to overcome his fears and joyfully embrace the unpredictability and insanity of the world around him.
Elijah Wood (Lord of the Rings, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Happy Feet) stars as “Ryan” and Jason Gann, who co-created and starred in the Australian series, plays the title character “Wilfred.” Series regulars also include Fiona Gubelmann as “Jenna,” Ryan’s beautiful neighbor and Wilfred’s owner, and Dorian Brown as “Kristen,” Ryan’s uptight sister.
After being in and out of hospitals for the past four years, I was excited to hear about the possibility of working in television again and to get back in the game. I literally JUMPED off of the sofa! David told me the story about a “pot smoking” dog and the male lead role being a legal medical marijuana patient that used cannabis for depression.
I loved it! Then the red tape started with the studio’s legal department… turns out, it was illegal, so they went the fake route. Drats. My excitement was short lived… “oh well!” I thought.
Harvest came and went. Back in Los Angeles again, I found myself reunited with many of my old friends in the entertainment community. During the middle of one of our “pot luck cannabis tasting” from my collective, I received a call from David’s sister and my close friend, Dori, the casting director for the series, said “Remember when you did the product placement for my Karma Dolls? I have a huge project for you and we need this done yesterday! You’re the only person for the job!”
“Wilfred” the new FX series that David, the executive producer had needed the plants for last summer NOW needed an entire “medical marijuana patient collective” built from scratch within the next 48 hours, complete with medicine, vaporizors, edibles, medicated chocolates, magazines, er ah, you get it, the entire enchilada! I immediately jumped in to action and alerted the KUSH magazine team by text.
Before my diagnosis, my career was built around placing products with celebrities in film, television and music. Once the placement was cleared, we took it a step further and created a media plan for them to create a publicity campaign for client’s respective brands.
I spoke with Team KUSH – launched a plan and went in to immediate action. I called our advertisers in KUSH Magazine and clients that had exhibited with us at KUSHCON. Everything started magically coming together.
Few people in the mainstream community realize that the LEGAL cannabis industry is a documented $1.7 billion dollar business in the United States alone! By contrast, however, few media outlets allow cannabusinesses to advertise—especially the mainstream.
This is the opportunity to be a part of everyday dinner conversation – in other words—becoming a household name—building a brand.
Team KUSH jumped on board immediately. The editorial started making room in our June 2011 edition of the magazine to write this very cover story! The art department started sketching the layout for the photos that were already in the legal clearance department at the FX Studio Production Offices for print.
I requested the script from the production office and broke it down with a list of specific products that I needed to make it “real” and legit and with that in mind I we began to brand the modern cannabis consumer for prime time american television audiences.
Within 48 hours we transformed a former production office into a lifelike Medical Marijuana Collective, so authentic that many of the crew members stated that they “felt like they should pull out their patient ID card and place an order”. I’m thrilled that we have an opportunity to share this viewpoint vs. what “Lamestream Media” usually presents as a negative stereotype to the world.
As we were setting up the scene with the set decorators and property masters, generally referred to as “the crew” or the “below the line” team, I noticed that Elijah and Jason the two primary stars of the show had entered the building. In my first meeting with them, I was very pleasantly surprised that Elijah Wood actually approached me to say, “Wow! I heard that we were doing a collective scene today. I heard that you put all of this together for us and I just wanted to personally thank you for doing an outstanding job!” Then he was kind enough to invite me to sit down with him for lunch to discuss the work that we were doing with KUSH Magazine and the possibility of a cover shoot.
As we were preparing to shoot the collective scenes, I readied my video camera that I brought to document the event. My friend executive director David Zuckerman walked in and told me what I could and couldn’t shoot. There were strict rules that Wilfred’s character played by Jason Gann was only allowed to be shown in the dog suit.
First comes the stand ins so that the director of photography can properly light the set. Then walked in Elijah working with the property master to select his jacket and carrying case for the scene. As they began rehearsing, in walks another man in a t-shirt and shorts. I couldn’t see his face, but my camera was rolling.
As he turned around during the rehearsal, I realized that I saw a “black nose” on the man’s face. He looked me dead in the eye as my video camera was rolling and I realized that it was in fact Jason Gann and I had just accidently violated the first rule of NOT filming Jason in his Wilfred suit! I was mortified that I was in trouble, but luckily, it was ok.
After 25 years in the entertainment business, I can honestly tell you that Elijah Wood and Jason Gann are truly two of the nicest friendliest chaps in the business. “Stars” are known to stay in their trailers generally in between takes. Not these two. With Elijah and Jason sitting there dining and chatting with me and several other crew members from extras, to producers to casting directors to carpenters.
I told Elijah and Jason how impressed I was with them as “people”. Elijah said, “In all of my years in the business, I’ve never supported or understood the divide.” Translation? Rather than segregate crew from stars and corporate suits from the studios, he was basically telling me that he treats everyone equally with respect and dignity. How refreshing!
When I asked him point blank how he was so well-balanced? I love his answer— “My mom gets all the credit. She’s my best friend. I crew up with healthy nutritional meals that she made for the entire family and that sense of family makes me who I am.” Elijah is enlightened.
Cheryl Shuman is the Director of Celebrity, Media and Public Relations at Kush Magazine and has been had a tremendous impact in Hollywood, business, and medical cannabis advocacy for more than 25 years. Medical Marijuana 411 is honored to have her as a contributing writing for MedicalMarijuana411.com.
Wilfred is based on the critically acclaimed Australian series of the same title and was adapted for FX by David Zuckerman (Family Guy, American Dad, King of the Hill). Zuckerman also serves as Executive Producer along with Rich Frank, Paul Frank and Jeff Kwatinetz of Prospect Park and Joe Connor and Ken Connor of Renegade, producers of the Australian version of the series. Jason Gann serves as Co-Executive Producer. Wilfred is produced by FX Productions.